Fire claims two historic buildings in downtown Williams Lake

Angie Mindus photo
Angie Mindus photo
Angie Mindus photo
Angie Mindus photo
Angie Mindus photo
Patrick Davies photo
Angie Mindus photo
Patrick Davies photo
New World Coffee and Tea House owner Sue Lachance. Angie Mindus photo
Angie Mindus photo
Angie Mindus photo
Patrick Davies photo

Two historic buildings in downtown Williams Lake have been destroyed by a fire that broke out in the early morning Friday, Sept. 20.

Fire crews were called at about 5:30 a.m. to the location of Diamonds and Dust Entertainment Lounge on Oliver Street, which has been the location of multiple previous arson attempts in the last year.

By 6 a.m. the building was fully engulfed and the roof of the building had collapsed onto the sidewalk. A team of about 25 firefighters from the Williams Lake Fire Department battled the fire hard, hitting it with water from several fronts, in an attempt to stop the blaze from spreading.

Deputy Fire Chief Rob Warnock of the WLFD told the Tribune at about 6:15 a.m. no one was injured in the blaze.

Thick black smoke continued to billow from the building as residents made their way to work Friday morning. Firefighters extended their taped off section to close off Mackenzie Avenue at the foot of Oliver Street just after 9 a.m. when it became evident that the fire was about to spread to New World Coffee and Tea House next door.

By 9:30 a.m. flames could be seen shooting out of the roof structure at the back of the New World as a excavator arrived on scene and tore down the beloved coffee shop to save the others, which included the barber shop, a tattoo parlor, cell phone repair shop and Ming’s Palace Chinese restaurant.

By 10:30 a.m. members of the Wildwood and 150 Mile Volunteer Fire Departments arrived to assist with the structure fires and an air quality advisory was issued due to the thick smoke over the city.

The Tribune caught up with New World Coffee and Tea House owner Sue Lachance on scene, who was coming to grips with the loss.

“We’re sad, but everyone’s safe and that’s the main thing,” said Lachance, who owns the popular shop with her partner Brice O’Neill. “The fire department has been amazing. They did everything they could. They pressurized our building. It looked really positive for a bit … but unfortunately the fire breached the walls.”

The building was built in the late 1930s by the Borkowski brothers, Lachance said, noting the original building was also built on to a couple more times after that.

“It’s had a long, long history of different businesses being in there,” she said.

Lachance and O’Neill completely renovated the building before opening New World Coffee and Tea House and while doing so found many historical treasures that they displayed in the café which were lost in the fire.

“Whenever an historic building like this goes it is always sad because a piece of history goes with it.”

As Lachance spoke, many friends and customers offered their condolences, adding how much they loved the coffee shop.

Lachance told the Tribune they plan to rebuild.

Williams Lake Fire Chief Erick Peterson told the Tribune when they arrived on scene at 5:30 a.m. they observed smoke and flames coming from the roof at the front of Diamonds and Dust.

Peterson said he cannot speculate at this point the cause of the fire, however, residents can expect that section of Oliver Street to be closed for a few days while fire investigators secure and examine evidence to determine the cause.

Williams Lake RCMP Insp. Jeff Pelley, officer in charge of the detachment, said the RCMP are working with the WLFD to investigate the fire.

Peterson confirmed Diamonds and Dust and New World are complete losses, while the barber shop suffered severe water damage, along with the rest of the buildings downhill of the fire.

“All these buildings are connected in one way or another,” he said of the historic block.

Even Caribou Ski Source for Sports, he said, received water damage due to the amount of water they had to use to protect the building from the fire.

Peterson wanted to thank all emergency responders who assisted at the scene, including the Wildwood and 150 Mile fire departments, EHS and RCMP.


Do you have a comment about this story? email:
editor@wltribune.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19 highlights lack of connectivity in First Nations communities

Many don’t have access required to utilize online platforms, says First Nations Technology Council

Bear calls keeping new Cariboo conservation officer busy

Residents are reminded to secure attractants in Williams Lake and Quesnel

Update: 150 Mile VFD responds to vehicle fire on Highway 97 south of Williams Lake

Fire chief Stan McCarthy said the van was fully engulfed when crews arrived

Jayson Gilbert charged in Williams Lake murder of Richard “Savage” Duncan

Gilbert also faces first degree murder in the Rudy Johnson Bridge death of Branton Regner

B.C. legislature coming back June 22 as COVID-19 emergency hits record

Pandemic restrictions now longer than 2017 wildfire emergency

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

Thanks for helping the Williams Lake Tribune continue its mission to provide trusted local news

B.C. businesses ‘can’t shoulder burden’ of COVID-19 sick pay

Trudeau’s plan should be tied to federal emergency aid

Another Asian giant ‘murder hornet’ found in Lower Mainland

This is the farthest east the invasive species has been found so far

B.C. girl left temporarily paralyzed by tick bite sparks warning from family

Mom says parents need to check their kids when they go camping

PHOTOS: Loved ones reunite at an oasis on closed U.S.-Canada border in Surrey

Officials closed the park in mid-March over coronavirus concerns

Feds delay national action plan for missing and murdered Indigenous women

Meanwhile, the pandemic has exacerbated the violence facing many Indigenous women and girls

B.C.’s essential grocery, hardware store employees should get pandemic pay: retail group

Only B.C.’s social, health and corrections workers are eligible for top-ups

COLUMN: Canada needs to remember rural communities as thoughts turn to pandemic recovery

Small towns often rely on tourism, which has been decimated by COVID-19

Most Read